How to find your inner calm & calm down your kids?

Being With Strong Emotion Pema Chodron's strategies

What do you do to stay calm or calm down?   I’d love to know what works for you…..

I had to use all the mindfulness skills available to me earlier this week to keep calm….and then when I erupted (oops!) – to recover quickly!  No-one can push our buttons like our kids can – and it is often when we are tired, stressed – or need to get to work on time….that we are pushed to our limits!   As Jane Nelson says in Positive Discipline we are aiming for a general direction NOT perfection…so no point beating ourselves up when we revert to old ways….and instead we need to keep practicing and keep noticing the times when we remember our new strategies…when we find a way to stay calm or calm down!

For me what worked this week was:

  • breathing,
  • focusing on my feet,
  • saying to myself this too will pass,
  • looking outside to the view…
  • then doing some LOUD breathing out…
  • then when I did erupt (unfortunately!) keeping it to ‘I’ statements –  limiting the  blame and shame….
  • and afterwards giving both kids huge hugs,
  • apologising for my reaction,
  • talking about what we can do the next morning to prevent the same scenario from happening again….
  • and for me to identify that I need more self-care / me-time so that I have more reserves for handling BIG issues as they come up!

I am passionate about the need for all parents to understand emotions – how they work? how our brains process them? how kids develop emotional intelligence? How we can use mindfulness to find our inner calm and to help our kids to calm down too?

Here is a video I made for our recent How To Talk So Kids Will Listen group on how to deal with Big Feelings.

I’m so excited to have a *NEW* short online course ‘Understanding Emotions’ – you can work through it at your own pace, when it is convenient for you – there are slides , videos & reflective questions to encourage deep learning!  I highly recommend it,  you can free trial some of the videos here  http://mindfulparentingmindfulcoachingonline.thinkific.com/courses/understandingemotions

I’d love your feedback!

Understanding emotions

 

Free Resource: If you would like FREE mindfulness prompts like the one above with strategies on how to deal with a STRONG feeling (yours or your kids) – please sign up at www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com or for recommended mindful parenting resources go to www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com/resources

 

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It’s not perfect… it is as it is ….and within that are some really great moments!

moreton island

I was really lucky recently to be able to go camping on Moreton Island, QLD with my partner and four kids for 8 nights with just the basics (e.g. cold showers)…. and it really felt like a retreat from the world as we slept, snorkelled, kayaked, ate and slept some more!

But as the layers fell and we slowed down… and we focussed more on being and less on doing I noticed that even then….even when things were really peaceful and less stressful, my mind would STILL be classifying each moment as ‘like that’ or ‘don’t like that’ and I would be disappointed that this holiday wasn’t PERFECT!

It was almost as if by slowing down I became more aware of my mind’s ‘chatter’ and I was amazed that even when on a tropical island there was still potential to be unhappy… e.g. ‘it’s too hot’, ‘it’s raining’, ‘there’s mossies’, ‘I wish we had fresh fruit’ ‘the kids are fighting again’ etc. It didn’t seem to matter how relaxed we were I was still finding things I wanted to avoid or crave.    I would dwell on memories of  past holidays and wish that this one would have that same or even better moment of happiness, connectedness or relaxation…  I was spending a lot of my holiday in the past or the future and not in the present!

This got me thinking about the Buddhist principle that aversion & craving cause our suffering/distress.   As humans we tend to classify moments as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral and crave more of the pleasant and try to avoid the unpleasant.  Maybe this is human nature and it may even be an important survival strategy?    But if we are to be content with the present moment we need to observe our judgements and not get too caught up in them.   E.g. ‘I’m having the thought that it would be really nice to have air conditioning/ a more comfortable mattress /  a hot shower right now’ and let that thought drift by and remain in the present moment…

As I noticed these thoughts and became less caught up in them I was able to be more and more immersed in the present and less and less bothered by the  ‘unpleasant’ features of camping.   Each time I noticed them I would think ‘This isn’t perfect, it is as it is, and within that are some really great moments!’ and somehow this helped – in fact it is still helping me to adapt to life back in the real world!

I hope you all had a good start to the New Year with some time to reflect and be mindful 🙂

Brainstorming Solutions…thinking laterally & creatively to solve problems

Problem SOlving Positive Discipline Tool positive discipline a-z book

I felt like I was quite old (I was a new Mum and in a relationship with my partner) before I realised that if you can brainstorm solutions and think laterally there is always a win:win solution….there will always be a way through if you just look hard enough!

I was fascinated with the recent Life at 9 series on ABC IView when the narrator said:

“Navigating life depends on our ability to solve problems, a skill scientists understand as creativity” and  “Creativity is a greater predictor of success in life than IQ”.

David Cropley, a creativity expert on the show, then said :  “The basis of creativity is all about starting with divergent thinking and that means if we hope to get a good solution we first of all have to go through as many solutions as we can”

And this got me thinking of one of the best Positive Discipline Tools from www.positivediscipline.com which I use at home and teach other parents all the time….the idea that as parents, once we understand the child’s underlying feelings and needs behind a behaviour we can then brainstorm solutions and in the brainstorming phase we need to write down all possible solutions, there is no right or wrong!

It’s so true we often need to brainstorm left field ‘way out there’ solutions to be able to come up with solutions that will work!  Something  I especially love is the idea of involving our own kids from the age of 4 in brainstorming the solutions for particular issues / behaviours.   The kids always come up with the most crazy solutions but also the most simple and best solutions too!  (e.g. in resolving shared bedroom issues: first suggesting their brother could sleep with the chooks or in the hallway cupboard but eventually deciding duct tape down the middle of the bedroom will do!)

How great is it that we can involve our kids in helping to brainstorm solutions but also help boost their creativity skills at the same time!  It is certainly something we want for all our kids once they become adults isn’t it? To be creative problem solvers who are able to resolve conflicts by finding win:win solutions…mindfully…

(At www.positivediscipline.com there are podcasts on Focusing On Solutions and one of their books is called Positive Discipline A-Z, 1001 Solutions To Everyday Parenting Problems)

Mindfulness & Children

My Favourite way of explaining the brain to children but also to parents! Thank you Dan Siegel!

Mostly I am so flat out with life and trying to be more mindful myself that I must admit I don’t do enough teaching of mindfulness to my 4 children….not as much as I would like to anyway!   Jon Kabat Zinn in his book ‘Parenting Mindfully’ believes it is enough for children to see their parent become more mindful – here’s hoping…

There have been a few easy strategies though that have really worked….and writing this blog renews my motivation to keep going!

1. The Mindful Minute: When we have just walked up to the top of a beautiful lookout as I am trying to appreciate the view often there will be a moan, whinge, tease  or complaint!   Asking everyone just for 1 minute of silence to see how many things they can hear or see or how many shades of green or blue can they see, gives me one minute to appreciate the view, at least two kids will get into it and find new things they weren’t aware of and whoever was in a bad mood gets a minute to calm down…..there’s always a shift in the atmosphere — we seem to all feel better for it afterwards, even if  there was rolling of eyes at the start!

2. Cultivating Gratitude: At the start of some meals just asking everyone to pause and talk about where the food came from, who cooked it, shopped for it, grew it, transported it OR to ask that everyone eats there first mouthful mindfully OR go around the table and say one thing you are grateful for….again there might be some reluctant participants but there is always a softening of the mood around the table, a re-connecting and the meal is more enjoyable!!

3. In times of pain or distress: helping children to focus on a different body part e.g. can you feel your toes, wiggle your toes, I’m going to squeeze your fingers….can be easier than asking them to breathe….I found this also eased my own distress and then I could begin to breathe deeper and model that for them.   There are also some beautiful visualisation meditations for children that I used for helping kids to go to sleep and if they are familiar with them then they can be perfect for using when your child is sick or in pain

4. Mindful Massage:  When my kids were young a friend recommended buying massage tools and encouraging your kids to ‘drive’ them over your back!  Another Mum used to lie on the floor and encourage her boys to drive their matchbox cars over her back!!   My kids still LOVE a massage and love giving one to….and BOTH can be very mindful – as the giver or the receiver…it’s a great way to reconnect without words!

5. Mindful Hug: Hugging until relaxed….hugging a loved one just a little bit longer & being really mindful about it- you can feel the tension drop away!

6. The BIG ONE- Dealing with BIG EMOTIONS!:  I have found this the hardest – but also the most essential.  For me the biggest thing to learn (&still learning as we enter the teen years) is how to sit with your child’s BIG emotions and not try to fix them or dismiss or minimise them but validate the emotions and importantly name them.   Then we needed to cultivate in our house the idea of ‘positive timeout’ (you can read more about it on http://www.positivediscipline.com ) where you are not ‘punished’ or sent away for feeling ANGER & FRUSTRATION but instead shown how to find ways to calm yourself down BEFORE communicating about the problem!   We still have a long way to go in our house with this one – when the anger & frustration is directed at me I find it VERY hard not to buy into it…..but I felt like we got somewhere when my eldest at 13 said ‘Mum I’ve learnt that the best thing to do when I’m feeling angry is to go for a bike ride, then I feel better’   It has really helped to talk to my children about how the emotional brain works (fight, flight or freeze response & the brain in the hand model – see the youtube clip above by Dan Siegel) and how we can calm it down but I haven’t done it for awhile so this is inspiring me to bring it up again as it is such an important part of life….if only I had learnt how to handle emotion when I was a child / teen rather than as a new Mum at 27!!!!

It is great writing this as it gives me heart that perhaps I have introduced more mindfulness into our house than I first thought and also it’s strengthened my commitment to persist!  My favourite books on the subject are Dan Siegel ‘ The Whole Brain Child’ http://www.drdansiegel.com/ and Goldie Hawn ’10 Mindful Minutes’.   The best program within schools that I can find is MINDUP  http://thehawnfoundation.org/mindup/ – Goldie Hawn is the passionate founder and they have just had a series of workshops in Australia.  How amazing would that be if in every school, in every class, kids were being taught 10 minutes of mindfulness!!!  The results they have got so far in the states seem amazing!!